At least 5 million people in the US are currently living with age-related dementia. This figure is rising every year.
Alzheimer’s causes around 70% of these dementia cases. This is a degenerative disease that affects your cognitive abilities.
But people live for an average of 8 years after the first symptoms of dementia present. Some people live with dementia for 20 years.
This isn’t easy, though. Many people living with Alzheimer’s require care and support in their daily task.
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s can be a daily struggle. It requires proper preparation. So here are our top tips for caring with someone with Alzheimer’s.
What Is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease that affects the brain and causes dementia. This damages brain function. It usually affects people over the age of 55.
Cognitive function will depend on which part of the brains are damaged. But some of the most common symptoms are:
- Short- and long-term memory loss
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty problem-solving
- Trouble thinking coherently
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty sleeping properly
- Problems recognizing words or colors
Often these changes will be small, to begin with, and get progressively worse with time. Later stages of dementia can also include paranoia and hallucinations.
But even the early stages of Alzheimer’s can be difficult to cope with alone. Daily tasks become a lot harder. And caregiving is important to keep people with Alzheimer’s safe.
How Is Caring for Someone With Alzheimer’s Difficult?
Alzheimer’s care isn’t easy. It is a full-time job and sometimes a thankless one.
People suffering from Alzheimer’s may need assistance with even the most simple tasks. For example, they might lose their appetite. Or want to eat all the time.
A caregiver needs to regulate this without impeaching on their independence.
People with Alzheimer’s often struggle to maintain a hygiene routine. This means the caregiver has to help with bathing, oral hygiene, and even incontinence.
It also requires constant attention. Some people who suffer from Alzheimer’s will wander away from their home or caregiver. So you need to keep an eye on them all the time.
But perhaps the hardest thing to navigate are the mood swings of someone with Alzheimer’s. These are understandable.
The brain is struggling to regulate emotions. And losing control is an unpleasant thing for anyone to experience. So they may lash out at those close to them. Any caregiver needs to have thick skin.
Day to day activities and routines can also help. These are our tips to help you out.
Create a Safe Environment
Alzheimer’s impairs a person’s memory and judgment. So it increases the risk of danger to themselves and others. You can make some changes to protect against this.
Get rid of anything that could be a trip hazard. They won’t always notice extension cords, scatter rugs and other clutter. And a fall for an elderly person could be serious.
If they’re uncertain on their feet installing handrails or grab bars is a good idea.
Put locks on cupboard or cabinets that contain anything potentially harmful. Medicine, cleaning fluid, alcohol, guns, and tools can all be dangerous. You should also lock away lighters or matches.
And you can take other fire safety precautions. Always have a fire extinguisher close by and fresh batteries in the smoke alarms. If the person you’re looking after smokes then make sure they only do this under supervision.
When bathing, make sure you check the water before they get in. Burns can be especially distressing for someone with impaired cognitive function.
Small homes for people with Alzheimer’s also provide safe environments for them. This is part of their carefully thought out Alzheimer’s care plan. For more information read more here.
Create Good Communication
Communication is key to looking after someone with Alzheimer’s. This helps avoid further confusion and frustration.
Provide simple and clear instructions. Working through things step-by-step will make them easier to do. And this will stop them feeling overwhelmed while performing tasks.
You might also be able to create an individual signal with the people you’re looking after. They can use this to let you know when they need help. This can help them feel more in control.
For example, if they want your help remembering a particular word, they might nod to you. This also avoids you jumping in and making them feel frustrated.
Reducing distractions while performing tasks makes communication easier. So turn off the TV or music to help their focus.
Maximize Their Independence
Losing independence is one of the most frustrating things about Alzheimer’s. So working together can help the person feel like they have more control.
Offering them choices is a great way of doing this. Don’t overwhelm them with choices and keep the decisions simple.
If it’s safe, let them perform the tasks they still feel comfortable with. For example, they might want to balance their own checkbook. You can offer to review this rather than just doing it for them.
Plan Your Time
Having a routine can really help someone suffering from Alzheimer’s. They can still learn and follow them.
This also helps them feel more in touch with what’s happening. And an evening routine can really help combat Sundowning Syndrome.
Try to keep daily activities at the same time. For example, always eat meals and bath at regular times.
If they have medical appointments, try to schedule these for the same time each day. This will make going to them feel more familiar and less daunting.
Remember that activities take longer than normal for someone with Alzheimer’s. Don’t hurry them and let them have regular breaks.
A routine doesn’t mean you can’t do spontaneous activities. But be aware of how long things will take. You don’t want to overcrowd the day and create confusion.
Familiarize Yourself With the Emotions They Might Feel
Alzheimer’s is frustrating for everyone involved. Understanding the emotions that someone with it might feel can prepare you for looking after them.
They might be in denial about a diagnosis. This is really difficult to see. And it’s important that they overcome it so they can accept the proper support.
They will also feel afraid of how the disease will progress. This can make it difficult to focus on what is happening in the present.
It can also cause stress and anxiety or anger and frustration. This often comes from a fear of losing control. You might feel upset over how becoming a caregiver will impact your relationship.
Some people find themselves grieving over the change in their life. It can feel like they’ve already lost part of themselves.
This can lead to depression. If the person you’re caring for has depression it’s important that they get proper support.
Create a Good Lifestyle
Living with Alzheimer’s should be living not just surviving. So find activities that encourage a happy, healthy lifestyle.
Physical activity is great for getting out of the house and staying fit. Some believe it is even beneficial for fighting the disease. Choose an activity that you can both enjoy.
Delicious balanced meals are also important. They should contain plenty of vegetables and be low in fat.
Find out what the person you’re looking after finds relaxing. And what they find stressful. Knowing these triggers can help create emotional balance throughout the day.
Many people with Alzheimer’s find music particularly soothing. But let them tell you what they enjoy rather than assuming you know.
The Bottom Line
Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is a huge task. Some days it will be frustrating and others it will be rewarding. But hopefully, these tips will help to make it easier.
The most important things are to find what works individually for whoever you look after. And don’t forget to look after yourself, too!
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